Advice for a parent suffering the quarter-life crisis


September 21, 2011

Summer is just about officially over, everyone is back at school – except for the shadow that creeps out of bed around noon and inhabits the couch until it's time to shower and go out with friends.

Pity the poor 20-something, the college graduate or drop-out (call it “set-aside”) who's unemployed, uninspired, and living at home again. Perhaps he's having a quarter-life crisis?

This source offers a diagnosis:

Phase 1 – A feeling of being trapped by your life choices. Feeling as though you are living your life on autopilot.
Phase 2 – A rising sense of “I’ve got to get out” and the feeling that you can change your life.
Phase 3 – Quitting the job or relationship or whatever else is making you feel trapped and embarking on a “time out” period where you try out new experiences to find out who you want to be.
Phase 4 – Rebuilding your life.
Phase 5 – Developing new commitments more attuned to your interests and aspirations.

Unfortunately, it's tough to speed someone from Phase 1 to Phase 4, so that midday shadow may hang around a bit, evaluating his choices. The experts advise you not to rush, as completing the phases usually brings positive long-term results, but patience can be tough to come by.

Try being sympathetic: kids stuck in this situation don't want to be living at home. They feel pressured to have a real life, but lack the tools necessary to making that happen, or lack the desire to lock in to a lifetime of work and family that looks like yours. It's so depressing. There must be more to life than this:

There are many resources, and lucky for your lurking shadow, most are online and not hidden in foreign lands called books (though there are plenty of those too, as seen at the bottom of this column). This discussion board,  on, allows similarly lost souls to discuss their options, and to share wisdom hard-earned by scraping together trolley money and skipping lunches to afford going out on weekends. Live at home a little longer? Take another unpaid internship as a route to a real job?

While many suggest that there are alternative routes to success, like pursuing a job in the so-called green economy, it's difficult to maintain a positive attitude and avoid the pitfalls of pessimism. Encourage your offspring to go out with friends. The conversation is inevitably going to turn to his stalled job situation, which under different circumstances (perhaps just in different clothes) would be considered networking. Perhaps there's a niche job out there  that hasn't even been considered. It could happen. After all, there's even hope for English majors.


Published: Sept. 21, 2011

Author: Allison O'Leary Murray


Word Count: 440

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